For a long time, the Philippines was considered to have a relatively low AIDS rate, but in recent years this has started to change. Nowadays HIV in the Philippines is described as “hidden and growing”.
At a recent forum in Tagaytay, the Philippines’ first Catholic HIV/AIDS network was launched. Caritas Internationalis’ special advisor on HIV and AIDS, Msgr Robert Vitillo, says the network comes at the right time. Caritas Philippines will play a key role in the AIDS network.
“One reason the network is so important is the shift in the pattern of the epidemic, which could grow more rapidly than in the past,” says Msgr Vitillo.
The Philippines has a large migrant population that leaves the country to look for work. There is a greater risk of HIV infection among migrant workers and the return of migrant workers to the Philippines is thought to have an impact on the country’s AIDS rate.
The network will coordinate and strengthen the Church’s work on HIV. The Church and Caritas already have a number of programmes in the Philippines. A big focus of Caritas’ work is empowering local communities to help themselves.
A Caritas pilot project to prevent stigma and discrimination in communities which was started on small scale is about to be expanded to 29 dioceses.
The Church works in many other areas concerning AIDS in the Philippines. It offers diagnosis, care and treatment, counselling, training and income generation projects.
“We now need to coordinate our efforts together, support each other, learn from each other and strengthen one another in this work. It is for this reason that we have come together,” said Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila at the forum.